Facing protest, Eric Cantor cancels income inequality speech
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor canceled a speech on income inequality planned for Friday afternoon because of protesters' plans to make their presence felt at the event.
The event was to take place at 4:30 p.m. Eastern at the Huntsman Hall of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. The hall is named after White House hopeful Jon Huntsman's family.
"The Office of the Majority Leader was informed last night by Capitol Police that the University of Pennsylvania was unable to ensure that the attendance policy previously agreed to could be met," Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said.
Cantor's office scheduled the speech several months ago with the expectation that the audience would be made up of roughly 250 Wharton-affiliated individuals, including faculty, MBAs and undergraduates. Last night, it said, was informed that the first 300 people who arrived at the speech would be admitted, and that a university affiliation would not be required to attend. Cantor's office was also told that the protesters would be allowed on campus and planned to amass outside the hall where Cantor was scheduled to speak.
In a statement, the university denied that it had changed the attendance rules.
"The Wharton speaker series is typically open to the general public, and that is how the event with Majority Leader Cantor was billed," the university said. "We very much regret if there was any misunderstanding with the Majority Leader's office on the staging of his presentation."
A coalition of groups, including the Philadelphia AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Keystone Progress and MoveOn.org, had planned to bring hundreds to the event to protest "Eric Cantor's outdated belief in the 'trickle down' economic theory."
Upon receiving word that the speech was cancelled, the groups vowed to protest anyway.
"We will still be here, wondering why he refuses to meet with us. It appears he doesn't want to have a conversation with the 99% - this says a lot about Cantor's integrity," said Keystone Progress Executive Director Mike Morrill.
With the "Occupy" protests raging across the country, Cantor, who had warned of "growing mobs" of protesters, planned to discuss his desire to "encourage those at the top of the income scale to actually put their money to work to create more jobs" in order to close the income gap.
"You know, we are about income mobility and that's what we should be focused on to take care of the income disparity in this country," he told Fox News.
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